Witching Hour

February 28, 2014


We were in the car driving home from my parent’s house last Saturday. The evening before Fox had scream/cried for three hours straight and nothing we did could make it stop. Inconsolably is the word pediatricians use. Fox was crying bloody murder and as new parents we were freaked out. And for a week straight, like clockwork, Fox was inconsolable every evening starting at 6:30PM. Apparently this nightly meltdown is called The Witching Hour. The time of night when the ghouls come out and possess the bodies of sweet babies everywhere.

So, we’re driving home from my parents’ house during said Witching Hour last Saturday. Fox had been fussy all day but my mom busted out her grandma magic and kept him sleepy and content all. day. long. So, we head home just as the fuss began it’s crescendo. I thought the car may be our saving grace and out run the ghouls, sending our baby into a peaceful slumber. But no. Fox starts screaming. And then I start crying. And neither of us stop for the next hour. Now look, I know babies cry. I just didn’t know that it could feel like torture.

So what do you do when a baby won’t stop crying? You feed him, change his diaper, swaddle, shush, and swing him. You set him down. Then pick him up. You meditate. Then pray. Then you cry because eventually you lose your shit. Then you feel bad for crying because you’re supposed to be a graceful and patient warrior momma. Then you Google.

Google tells you to do all the things you’ve already done and it might tell you that your baby has colic… Which is a disease nobody seems to be able to define beyond “baby that cries a lot.” Google tells you not much can be done and that it only lasts for a few months. A few months!? But you’re supposed to be enjoying every moment.Which leaves you feeling even more hopeless.

So then you wipe away your tears and stare at yourself in the mirror for a minute. You pick your baby up and create a safe space in your arms for him to exorcise his gremlins in and you count your blessings that he’s alive in this world. Or at least that’s what I did.

If you’re a new parent Googling “Witching Hour Crying Baby How to Make It Stop” here’s what worked for me … but no guarantees:
• I called my mom: Grandma’s know a thing or two about raising a baby. They’ll swoop in and show you how it’s done with nothing but love and patience – both of which you may feel you’re running short on.
• I made a routine: For the first 5 weeks of Fox’s life we were winging everything as we figured out how to take care of a baby. There was little room for routine – all of our actions were reactions. But the Witching Hour called for a routine. Not for the baby as much as it was for ourselves. We were still trying to do our nightly business of cooking dinner, watching The Daily Show, and enjoying a night cap. As much as I want the baby to fit seamlessly into our lives as-is he’s got his own needs. The biggest one being sleep when he’s tired. So now at 6PM we dim the lights in our bedroom, change his diaper, feed him, swaddle him, and rock / bounce / shush / feed him while singing Iko Iko until he falls asleep. And it works. Sometimes it takes an hour. Sometimes it only takes 20 minutes. And then I have the rest of my evening with Jeremy to cook dinner, watch The Daily Show, and enjoy a night cap (which for me these days is a bottle of Kombucha).
• Radiate love: I remind myself that my baby is just trying to figure out how to live in this world – just as much as I’m trying to figure out how to be a parent. So I like to imagine a soft lime green light pouring out of my heart and filling the room with love. I Imagine that love soothing my baby down to his cells. Yup, it’s totally woo-woo. It doesn’t magically make my baby stop crying but it does make me feel a little less shitty.

Are you a new parent managing a new baby’s tears? Or maybe a been-there-done-that pro? Tell me about it. What works for you? 

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